This presentation on Mobile app marketing covers user acquisition strategies for launch and growth stage. Detailed info on user acquition - campaign planning, incent vs. non-incent, network selection, creative planning and testing, buying models, programmatic buying for mobile, campaign performance and analytics.
I presented this at NASSCOM Game Developers Conference ( NGDC 2015 ) in Pune, representing [x]cube LABS.
Good afternoon everyone. Let me tell a little bit about myself before I jump into the topic for the session. My name is Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury, I have more than 12 years exp. In the digital marketing space, leave alone apps, phones were just phones, they were not smart during those days I started in that age of eye-jarring flash banner ads and sailed myself through to this day of mobile, user centric, contextual marketing. Today I work as VP Marketing for [x]cube LABS and also head the User Acquisition practice at [x]cube. So, for today’s session, I will talk briefly about a few important aspects of launch and then jump into the details of user acquisition , along with some real data and experiences from one of our games.
Now first thing first, how many of you believe that you can think of marketing your app after it has been developed ? Hopefully, not many, I will be happy if it’s none. While developing a game requires immense passion, we all know at the end of the day it is big business and like every business activity it requires prior planning and preparation. If you want a good launch, don’t wait for the product to be ready, start planning your launch and marketing strategies well in advance.
While the eagerness to get your app out in the market as soon as the last line of code is written is understandable, planning a release date in advance will help you coordinate all your marketing channels to fire at the same time, to get some coveted press coverage. Also, keep track of major tech announcement or launch of already well-known big branded apps – you probably don’t want to launch your app the same day when Clash of Clans does it’s next release.
As you launch your app, you would ideally want all your guns to fire at the same time. While Ads are probably your biggest channel for user acquisition, at launch, you have the maximum possibility of getting some PR coverage.
Yesterday, there were couple of sessions that dealt with the details of getting press coverage, so I will just give a top level overview. Creating a media kit is one of the most important aspects in increasing your chance for getting coverage. Also, do through research on the publications and specific journalists you want to reach out to, are they the right contacts ? Make sure your emails are personalized, the journos get thousands of emails a day – your subject line could play a crucial role on whether your mail gets opened or not.
Now a PR tool kit is probably already on your bucket list and you have taken good care of it. So what else can help get some press ? Your game is important to you but not so mcuh to a journalist, what would make it stand out is the story behind it. Tell them the backstory, how the idea evolved, something interesting that is worth sharing.. Also make sure your pitch is in line with the type of stories they typically do. The higher the alignment, the more is the chance of getting covered.
Every developer wants their game to be featured in the app store but there is no sure fire way to get there. Well known IPs and games from major studios that have delivered major hits before seems to have a higher chance of getting in there. However, if you think your game really deserves a spot there, don’t be shy to reach out to Google and Apple and give them a nudge. But the key here is “if your game really deserves” – so build a great game !
Try to get in touch at least 3-4 weeks prion to launch. Meet the reps, build relations. Talk to them and see if they can share your game and put in a good word. You can always submit through App support.
It’s definitely good to get reviewed by some of the appreview sites but not all of them are made equal. There are probably a handful that can actually drive traffic and few installs for your game, so focus on the ones that matter rather than submitting your app everywhere. Also, don’t spend money to get your app reviewed, I would rather spend that money on Ads.
Talking of ads, well they are expensive, but they work!
We will dive into the details of user acquisition advertising but before that a quick snapshot on the launch ..
Now we said Ads work, yes they do but with a caveat “if done right”. Everytime we are doing an ad campaign it is important that we have as much clarity on the various aspects – starting from campaign objectives, channels, expectations, measurement all of that. Here are some questions that we typically try to check off before initiating any ad campaigns..
Now that you are planning your ads – do you want to do a burst campaign or a sustained campaign ? Ideally do both, with proper planning and time them right. They work best when they work together – burst gets you the volume and rank, sustained campaigns help retain the rankings and also average out your retention metrics
This is what happens when you burst without a follow up plan for a sustained campaign – you go up fast and you come down faster..
A sustained quality user campaign can delay the drop, help you stay on top for longer, giving you more organic users thus a lesser eCPI and improving retention and engagement
From the burst campaigns we ran, here are few things that I can tell you..
I prefer to look at user acquistion as a function of precise targeting, wise buying and effective measurement..Targeting – use as many options that are available to youBuying – depending on you campaign objective, decide which model you want to go afterMeasurement – ensure you have proper integration to track all the necessary metrics, and you have decided on your KPIs
Knowing who your target audience could be is half the battle won and rather than talking theories here is an example of how we did it for one of our games Star Trek Trexels. Star Trek being a well known IP, it was relatively easier for us but then the point here is to illustrate the thought process…. Identifying the core audience and then slowly expanding the user base in a logical pattern. Also, in most cases you will notice a direct correlation between your campaign performance and your targeting relevance.
We also used lookalikes on Facebook to expand the user base which worked out extremely well for us, in fact it perfromed better than the core Star Trek Fans campaigns. Also, we were able to gather audience insights on users that converted and then funnelled the same into DSPs to widen our net for those paying customers..
So here is how it went.. Look at that 43% conversion rate on Lookalikes… not sure if it would happen the same for every game but definitely Lookalikes are a powerful audience targeting feature to try.
We talked about audiences – now how to reach these audiences ? Through networks. Broadly, networks can be classified under the following..
These are sopme metrics we look for when selecting networks
And even after selecting the networks, you should ideally run them through a test framework to decide if you want to continue with them. What you see is a very simple model that we use to test networks.. We start with multiple networks, look at publisher level data and cut off each publisher once we have received a predetermined number of installs from them and go into a 7 day watch & wait period.. That gives us enough insight in terms of the install quality, - look at multiple factors like retention, engagement, IAPs etc and based on that decide whether to continue or not.
Coming to creatives, the only thing that is true & constant about it is TEST. It’s a perpetual process : test > measure > change . Test everything..don’t test on hunches, test on data.
I think we all are mostly familiar with these models, CPE, CPI, CPC, CPM etc. While CPI and CPE are the most commonly used and preferred model for most game developers, what we have seen is that if you are able to invest enough time and skill in optimizing CPC campaigns, the performance of CPC campaigns could actually be better than CPI campaigns – particularly , considering the fact that on CPC you will have higher control on the quality of users you target and the average install quality is better than typical CPI campaigns.
Now how can we talk about ad buying and not talk about Programmatic… that’s the buzz word right ? Other than the big studios how many of you are currently using programmatic buying ? Honestly, programmatic buying if done right is a beautiful thing. It’s a complex system that simplifies the whole media buying process and makes it more effective and efficient. While most of you are already familiar with how it works, this picture perfectly illustrates the same..
So the big question is , Is programmatic right for you ? Let’s look at the pros and cons..Lack of human control – not possible to always monitor where your ads are getting placed, could be placed on sites that hurts your brand – McD ads on an article talking about ill effects of ObesityIdeally you need to have some budget to play around and experiment. While it is not mandatory and often contested, we have noticed that buying through DSPs is not really effective if you have small budgets
Now coming to measurement, the questions are how to measure and what to measure ? I think most of us are familiar with this guys – pretty reliable and well known tools that can give you in-depth analytics in terms of your campaign performance. There are also many other that are not on this list.. While selecting an analytics partner- look at the integrations they already have in place The ease of integrating the SDK Their dashboards and data availability cost
So with all these tools, we have access to tons of data, which is supposedly very helpful but tell me honestly, don’t you feel overwhelmed with the data that is thrown at you from every angle ? The key is to look at data that really matters. Why do you run an ad campaign ? To acquire Quality users, Who converts to paying customer- so what do you need to track? Quality and Revenue. These are some metrics that will tell you just that..You can always deep dive later for more analysis
Though the session is about user acquisition I feel it wouldn’t be complete if we are not talking about Retargeting.. Yes that 30% number is what we actually saw when we used Retargeting on StarTrek Trexels. I am assuming, courtesy, all our ecommerce sites, all of us are familiar with how retargeting works, right ?
So how can we use retargeting as part of our mobile marketing strategy ?
While it all sounds exciting, before you jump on to start your retargeting campaign, for it to be successful, it is extremely important that you..
Once you have done that..The smaller your segments the more precise your targeting would be , however, if your segments are too small that will limit the reach and increase your CPI – so you need to strike a balance here
So here’s one example .. We saw a very high churn rate on Level 1 of the game, which we later analyzed to be because of an extremely lengthy tutorial. We fixed the same and retargeted this segment with new release messaging with some offers.
This is another map on how we approached retargeting..- for users who have not done a IAP > we looked at whether they are on the old version or the latest version. The ones on old version were retargeted with content centric messaging & free in-game currency prompting them to get the latest versions and start playing. The ones on latest versions were given discount offers on IAP…- for people who have already made an IAP, were given discounts on other complimentary products, as well as content centric ads, ensuring they are aware of the latest content and continues to play
So here’s the data from another of our retargeting campaign and if you notice, it’s not just bringing back to idle users but we are generating revenue from those regained users.
You can use either Push notifications or advertising to do retargeting, however, with push notification, chances are users have turned off the notification and you can’t reach them.
The biggest challenge in retargeting however remains in terms of Reach. You can only reach a certain percentage of your total retargeted audience. The more number of channels you use and the more IDs you have the higher would be your reach %
So, if we look back at the STT retargeting campaign, what are the things that we did right ?- spent a lot of time in understanding drop off points and analyzing non converting user behaviour Segmented user base on multiple aspects to dig down to root cause and understand what would motivate them Highly customized messaging and creatives Deep Linking Leveraged multiple chanels at once to increase reach and maximize impact Having talked about the role of retargeting in engagement and conversion, I must mention that nothing beats an awesome app that has engagement tools built into it, that can deliver contextually relevant experience for the users. There are some tools that really help you to do this and I will take this opportunity to do a shameless plug –
at [x]cube we have developed an prorietory platform called Upshot – that could be a plug and play solution for all your engagement issues. It has a behavioral analytics engine a segmentation engine and a smart CMS that cantalk to both these components and create a highly customized and contextual experience for each users. We are also building some highly intelligent machine learning for churn prediction and other cool stuff into it. I will leave it at that and request uyou to visiti Upshot.ai to find more details.
Now that I have come to the end of the session, let’s try to summarize into some bullet points..
Mobile App User Acquisition Strategies - Launch & Growth
User Acquisition –Launch &
Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury
You Built it, Now What ?
Be prepared before this question hits you
Do you have a launch date?
”As soon as it’s ready” – is not a good answer
Your Launch Arsenal
PR, Social Media, App Reviews, Ads..
Getting Your PR Tool Kit
• App Name
• App URL
• Promo Code : if it’s a paid app
• Short App Description
• Bullet list of key feature set
( if you have really compelling ones)
• Elaborate description of your app
• Elaboration on what a great developer/designer/ visionary you are
What to Include :
What not to Include :
• Video trailer, if you have one
• Launch Date, if not launched already
• Short company profile
• Contact info
Don’t Pitch the App, Pitch the Story
• Research about the site you are pitching and preferably about the journalist. Try to find
something common, may be any game he has covered on same genre
• Find out the nature of stories the site does and work on how you can build a similar
story for your game
• Time your pitch – the longer your game is on the store, the lesser are your chances
• Share your story – anybody can write about the game, people are more interested to
write about the story
• Invest in building relations – you might not need them now, but this will work miracle
when you need them
Beyond the tool kit..
The Holy Grail
• Well Known IP
• Prior Success
• Pre-Launch PR
• Available Regions
• Languages supported
Not to mention..
A great game !
getting featured by Google / Apple
• Devices & Technology Supported ( Apple Watch etc)
• Videos ( in Play Store)
Factors That Help..
Increase your chances..
• Pitch early to the platforms
• Meet reps at events – work on building relations
• Ask your contacts if they would share your game
• Submit through app support
The Holy Grail
getting featured by Google / Apple
App Review Sites
good to have..
Don’t spend money on this, won’t drive many installs
they are expensive, but they work!
If done right..
The Launch – Snapshot
• Plan the launch date and organize your marketing around it
• Get the PR rolling
• Invest in User Acquisition
• Mix Quality + Incent
• Get volume with burst campaigns
• Measure KPI’s – attribute by source
Ads – doing it right
• What type of users do you want
• Have you done a detailed segmentation of your target audience ?
• What type of networks do you want to use / would likely work for you
• What ad formats do you want to use – Display, Native, Video ..
• Is there a minimum audience base that you need to acquire to evaluate a channel
• What is the maximum CPI you are willing to spend
• Do you have an initial Volume and LTV projections ?
• Do you have a strong attribution analytics in place ?
• Are you tracking all the necessary events ?
• Do you have your KPI’s in place ?
• Do we have skills to manage campaigns in-house or need to outsource to an agency
questions to ask..
To Burst or Not to Burst
Burst Campaign Sustained
You Need Them Both for the Best Results
well planned & timed
• The success of a burst campaign depends largely on planning and timing
• Don’t rely on one or two network – get multiple networks in place, always have some
backups in case one of your primary network fails
• Don’t roll out all networks at once – stack up, this helps reduce duplication in ad
serving and your audience doesn’t get exhausted too soon
• Preferably run a non-incent, quality user campaign at the same time – helps average
out retention rate and engagement metrics
• If you decide to do burst go all the way, there is no point doing a half hearted one, it
only kills your budget
Targeting your audience
Fans of Specific Star Trek Characters, e.g, Spock,
Fans of Specific Star Trek Movies & TV series. E.g,
Voyager, Deep Space Nine
Fans of famous Star Trek actors, e.g, George
People who like similar games
People who like/play strategy-Sim games
How we did for Star Trek Trexels
Lookalikes and Replicating Targets
• While the previous slide showed the core targeting pattern – we also
leveraged lookalikes to reach wider audience.
• We also studied the audience insights from Facebook on people who
made in-app purchases and then tried to replicated the same targeting
And the results..
Targeting Clicks App Installs Conv. Rate
Star Trek Fans 24864 6013 24.18%
ST TV Series 22023 5249 23.83%
ST Character 33482 5691 17.00%
ST Actors 34273 5209 15.20%
Similar Games 4304 201 4.67%
Strategy-Sim 4692 242 5.16%
Lookalike 29631 12922 43.61%
Where to get users
Free App A Day , Cross Promotions
Doubleclick Bid Manager, Trademob, Smaato, Appnexus, Pocketmath
NativeX, Appia, Tapjoy, Inmobi, Chartboost, Admob, Vungle, Ad Colony,
Unity, Leadboard, Airpush, Flurry, Millenial Media, AppLoving,
Selecting the right network
Network Category/ Source of Inventory
Display, Social Media, Affiliate, Direct publisher, Agency, cross promotion etc
Age, gender, country, device, OS, Interest, behavior etc
Display, native, video, rich media etc
Tracking & Measurement
Integration with third party analytics platforms
Transparency, Overlaps, API Access
Getting the Creatives Right
creatives get stale over time and stops
Data is your friend !
• Test themes
• Test CTA
• Test characters ( for games)
• Test copies
Buying Model Pros Cons
Ideal for driving specific action, e.g,
registration, lesser risk of overspending
Limited control on quality of users
Predictable cost of acquisition, lesser risk Limited control on quality of installs,
Limited user behavior tracking
Could lead to better quality users, more
insightful for campaign optimization, can be
cheaper than CPI if optimized properly
Needs highly skilled optimization team
to maximize clicks to conversion,
generally spend more than CPI
Ideal for brand advertisers, rich media and
video ads, full creative control, rich events &
Not an ideal model for driving installs
• Programmatic is the big word – but is it right for you ?
• More Inventory / Increased
• Highly data driven
• Precise targeting
• Real time optimization
• Cost effective in long run with
• Could lead to questionable ad
• Higher demand for budget
• Needs more technical
• Is Programmatic right for you?
Behavioral Metrics Financial Metrics
• Retention : D1, D7, D30, D90
• No. of Sessions/ user
• Avg. Session Length
• Completion of specific events ( Nth
level , completion of tutorial etc)
• Conversion Rate
• ROI = ARPU(nthDay) /CPI
• What to measure ?
• Don’t get overwhelmed with the data flood..look at what matters
Then came Retargeting..
Increased retention & 30% increase in LTV
How can Retargeting Help
• Convert Idle users to Active users
• Convert non-paying users to paying customers
• Offers for existing paid customers
• Totally understand the game and the flow
• Know the game KPIs
• Deep dive into user behavior
Approach to Retargeting..
Analyze user behavior
Segment into smaller buckets
Campaigns with customized message for each segment
Some real data..
20% of these churn were recovered using retargeting
24% Churn on Level One , whereas
the other levels have relatively low
900 / 1021 /500
24% / 28% /14%
89 / 117 / 56
2% / 3% / 2%
81 / 173 / 68
2% / 5% / 2%
34 / 91 / 32
1% / 2% / 1%
30 / 97 / 28
1% / 3% / 1%
Retargeting for Star Trek Trexels
Some more data.. STT Retargeting
Total No. of
73200 36762 50.22% 0.03 $313.65 16589 45.13% 3147.18
• Global Push Notifications
• Users can turn off push notification
• Digital / Mobile Advertising
• Google Adwords
• Third Party networks
• Most often you cannot reach 100% of your audience base. The more
number of networks you use and the more IDs you have, the higher is
• Analyzed user behaviour in depth to identify drop-offs and non converting users
• Segmented total user base into smaller groups based on user behaviour,
acquisition source, geography, version
• Created specific messaging and creatives for each of the segments
• Used Deep Linking
• Used multiple channels at once to increase reach
things we did right..
• Plan your marketing initiatives well in advance
• Ensure all marketing guns fire at the same time on launch
• Create a compelling story to pitch for press
• Don’t be shy to reach out to platforms, if your app is good enough to be
• Don’t spend money on app reviews, invest in ads
• Clarity is needed – Create your checklist of questions and make sure you have clear
answers to all of them
• If doing a Burst campaign, ensure you have everything planned to the T and you are
fully committed to it. Don’t do a burst campaign if you have limited budget.
• Always follow up burst campaigns with sustained quality user campaigns
• Optimize Everything : Network, Audience, Creatives, Bid etc
• Validate networks : establish a validation process
• Test Creatives and test some more
• Buy wisely – programmatic is great but not always
• Use Retargeting
• Be data driven – but be selective .
Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury